Thursday, January 29, 2009

Abiding in Christ

When reading in the book of John a few mornings ago, a passage that has always been an encouraging and convicting one for me spoke to my heart. I thought that I would share some of the verses with you also. The focus is upon abiding in Christ, in His love and in His commandments . . .

Abide - To rest in, to remain in, to continue in

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit . . . As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing . . . My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." Portions from John chapter 15

-Posted by Sarah

Friday, January 16, 2009

In Behavior as Becometh Holiness

There are many times in Scripture where specific instruction is given to believers in regards to their behavior. When looking at these verses, it is found that several of these are directed to women and are descriptive of what their behavior should be.

One verse that speaks in general to all believers is found in 1 Peter 1:14-16 in which Peter is exhorting believers “like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” The word “holy” in this particular verse is translated from the Greek word hagios

It was interesting to find that later in 1 Peter chapter 3 when women are being specifically addressed, a Greek word is used that is closely related to hagios. The passage reads:

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” 1 Peter 3:1-2

The word ‘chaste’ in this passage is translated from the Greek word hagnos which is derived from the same word that hagios (holy) is. Hagnos (the word 'chaste' in this passage) means to be “free from ceremonial defilement, holy, sacred” (taken from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.) 

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary furthers this defining by describing it as: “pure from every fault, immaculate; pure from carnality, modest.” Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines it as “Pure; a) pure from carnality, chaste, modest; b) pure from every fault, immaculate.” 

Within this word 'hagnos' is not only purity and modesty in word, action and heart, but there is also holiness. In fact, it would seem that the purity and modesty would stem from the holiness that is spoken of earlier in 1 Peter 1:14-16.

Further on in 1 Peter chapter 3, in speaking of a gentle and quiet spirit and submission, it is shared:

“. . . just as the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves . . .” 1 Peter 3:5

Here, women of God are noted as being “holy”. The Greek word used in this verse is again hagios. This is the very same word that is used when Peter is calling all believers to be holy as God is holy.

As holiness seems to be the deeper meaning and underlying factor spoken of in 1 Peter 3:1-2, we will first take a look at this particular word. The question that comes to mind is: What does it mean to be holy? What is holiness? 

We have in Scripture a perfect example of holiness for the Lord God is the epitome of holiness . . . He is “holy” (Isaiah 5:16; Psalm 99:3, 5, 9) . . . He is the “Holy One” (Job 6:10.) And “like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Peter 1:15.) 

As He is holy, so should we strive to be. Holiness for a believer in Christ has its foundation in a devotion and consecration to God, and it is exemplifying, living and having the character of God shining through us as we submit to the working of the Holy Spirit. Holiness is a casting off of the flesh and an adorning with the things of the Lord. 

Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines holy as:

Properly, whole, entire or perfect, in a moral sense. Hence, pure in heart, temper or dispositions; free from sin and sinful affections. Applied to the Supreme Being, holy signifies perfectly pure, immaculate and complete in moral character; and man is more or less holy, as his heart is more or less sanctified, or purified from evil dispositions. We call a man holy, when his heart is conformed in some degree to the image of God, and his life is regulated by divine precepts. Hence, holy is used as nearly synonymous with good, pious, godly.

In the first two passages that we looked at in 1 Peter, both say that this holiness and chasteness is to be in our behavior. Behavior is basically our inner heart expressed outwardly through our conduct, actions and words. It is the way we act, speak and carry ourselves; it is our demeanor and countenance. And as women, we are especially mandated that this holiness be expressed in our behavior.

Due to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, our ‘natural’ behavior, the natural man within us, is contrary and opposed to the attributes of godly womanhood . . . attributes such as: sober, dignified, gentle and quiet, submissive . . . and as mentioned here: reverent and chaste. 

All of these descriptive words can paint a fairly clear picture in our mind of what our behavior as ladies of the Lord should be, yet for the most part, they do not come easily! It is through submission to the working of the Holy Spirit and practice and striving that our behavior can come into alignment with God’s Word. Not in our own strength, but only in the “strength which God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11.)

So as women of God, we see that we are mandated to be holy in our behavior. In the book of Titus, another exhortation is given to women which speaks specifically of their behavior. The NASB (New American Standard Bible) translates this passage as:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior . . .” Titus 2:3a

This verse is speaking to older women, but they are instructed to teach and be an example to the younger women as we see in the following verse. While we may shrug this passage off and say that as we are young ladies it is not applicable to us, it is important to realize that each one of us will more than likely be an “older woman” someday. 

In a sense, it may even be said that we are “older women” to the younger girls that we are around. Regardless, this passage is speaking to women, and no matter our age, we should seek to bring our lives in alignment to this scriptural and God-honoring standard.

As we examine more closely this verse from Titus 2, we find that the Greek word from which 'reverent' is translated in this passage is hieroprepes. This word means: “suited to a sacred character” (from Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary; it is interesting to note that this particular Greek word is used only once in Scripture and that is here in Titus 2.) 

The King James Version translates this word in this passage as: “as becometh holiness”. We see then that this reverence is closely related to what was shared earlier in this writing . . . holiness.

The question then comes: Is our behavior that which is becoming to a woman of godliness? Is our behavior, demeanor and countenance exemplifying these attributes of reverence and holiness? Are we truly striving to become women of God who are reverent in our behavior and who are striving to be holy like the Holy One who called us? 

Day by day, moment by moment, may each one of us seek to grow in these areas . . . may we seek and strive to grow into godly ladies who bring glory to the Lord through our behavior . . . with all reverence and with all holiness.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ ” 1 Peter 1:14-16

-Posted by Sarah

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Psalm 119:9 - Taking Heed . . .

Recently several verses that I had memorized many years ago from Psalm 119 kept coming to my mind, one of which was. . .

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word.” Psalm 119:9

As the verse ran through my mind, I began to ponder the meaning of it, which then led to further investigation on the meaning of the words. [While this specific verse is speaking of young men, its application is still true for us as young ladies also.]

How shall we cleanse (zakah – to be translucent; fig. to be innocent) our way? By taking heed to the way in which we are walking according to God’s word.

The question that comes to mind then is: What does it mean to take heed to our way? What does it all entail? In this particular verse, the word “heed” is translated from the Hebrew word shamar which means to hedge about (as with thorns), i.e. guard; to protect, attend to; it can also have the meaning “to tend” *. 

This definition made a profound impression on my heart, two phrases in particular . . . to hedge about with thorns, to protect. Our lives, our hearts need to be surrounded with this hedge of protection. A hedge that keeps the evils of the world from infiltrating our hearts. A hedge that protects against selfishness, pride, worldliness and other sins.

But what is this hedge? Putting in the definition, it would read something like “putting a hedge of protection around our way according to God’s Word”. So we see that God’s word is the standard for what this hedge should be and what it should protect against.

When looking at Matthew Henry’s commentary on this verse, a portion of it seemed especially fitting to share here:

“They [those referred to in the verse] must carefully apply that rule and make use of it; they must take heed to their way, must examine it by the word of God, as a touchstone and standard, must rectify what is amiss in it by that regulator and steer by that chart and compass. God’s word will not do without our watchfulness, and a constant regard both to it and to our way, that we may compare them together.”

As children of God, we are to strive to guard our way, to examine it and purge the sin that is within, to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8) and “in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10.) Not as one of the kings of Israel did as the Scriptures share that “Jehu was not careful [“shamar”] to walk in the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart . . .” (2 Kings 10:31.)

May each one of us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, take heed to our way according to the Lord’s word. May we, unlike Jehu, be careful to walk in obedience to God’s word with all of our hearts. Let us seek, with the Lord’s aid, to set up a protective hedge and guard around our hearts and minds. And for what purpose? To please and glorify our precious Lord and Savior.

*Definitions taken from Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary

-Posted by Sarah